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PayPal and Bitcoin - Too big to prevent Money Laundering

Friday, 23rd October, 2020

The press is reporting that PayPal will start to accept Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrency as a funding source shortly.
See PayPal will now support Bitcoin trading and PayPal is the first to receive a conditional Bitlicense from the New York State Department of Financial Services.

We believe there is a reason that cyber-criminals performing ransomware attacks shutting down hospitals and businesses ask for payment in Bitcoin.
The reason is anonymity - which Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies enforce by design and their purpose.

Bitcoin and other cryptoasset transaction histories can be traced through a transaction chain, that is certainly true.
But this ability is worthless when subsequent transactions can take place anonymously in jurisdictions which are impenetrable, before releasing the cybercurrency back into circulation - and as Bitcoin is global this cannot be avoided. So white-washing dirty money is too easy with Bitcoin and cryptoassets.

As a company, will only allow its escrow service to be used for purchases of cryptoassets if it can be demonstrated to us that those cryptoassets have no connection to the proceeds of crime. And to date, despite many, many enquiries, this has never successfully been achieved.

If true, it is really distressing that PayPal have apparently decided to accept Bitcoin as a funding source, as this will enable every criminal and his dog to find innovative ways to integrate their illicitly and anonymously obtained Bitcoin into the massive PayPal global infrastructure, and launder their criminal assets. The size and reach of PayPal makes this in our view inevitable.

And PayPal is an example of a firm which is too big to prosecute on these failings. Since the majority of transactions it handles through Bitcoin funding sources will be legitimate, it will be able to say that the laundering of the proceeds of crime through its acceptance of Bitcoin and other cryptoassets is a necessary price to pay.

But this is to ignore the very problem that PayPal is facilitating. At the moment it is very hard to get rid of large scale Bitcoin or other cryptoassets of size which were gained through crime.
But once PayPal accepts Bitcoin as a funding source, this problem will likely disappear, and criminals who shutdown businesses, local governments and hospitals (sometimes causing death) through ransomware and other attacks will be laughing all the way to their eventual very real bank accounts.

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